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NYS Water Quality Regulations – Farmers must comply with New York State water regulations to protect surface and ground water from contamination from eroded soil, pH, fecal coliforms, excessive nitrate and phosphorus levels.  If the DEC determines that you are the cause of a water quality violation, your farm will be subject to a fine and farming practices may be restricted or prohibited.  This law applies to all land owners and farm operators.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) – Farms with large numbers of animals (e.g. 200+ mature dairy cows) must have a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation permit.

Details of a permit:

  • Requires a comprehensive nutrient management plan to be completed and updated annually by a certified Agricultural Environmental Management Planner. Plan covers animal manure, wastewater, silage leachate run-off and more.
  • Requires expansion to be planned and limited by the farms ability to handle nutrients/wastes produced.
  • Does not protect the farm in the event of a manure spill or discharge.  If a spill takes place the farmer has 24 hours to report it to the state and 5 days to file a written statement on what happened.

CAFO filings are generally not public record but they could be if the farmer wanted their information public.

Agriculture Environmental Management (AEM) – In order to be successful in the long-term, every farm must sustain or improve its soil, water, and plant resources. Beyond regulatory compliance, it is to a farmer’s advantage to incorporate good environmental management practices during their initial planning, rather than confronting costly mitigation measures later.

AEM operates at a county level through Soil and Water Conservation District offices. One-on-one assistance is generally available to help you incorporate good environmental management practices into your business plan from the start, and to walk your land with you to evaluate areas of concern. These offices will also have information on funding sources (grants, loans, cost-shares) for implementing conservation practices on your farm. Locate your local county SWCD office at:

Pesticide Regulations

When using pesticides, the Label is Law – make sure you read it!

Pesticide Applicator Certification –

Becoming Certified

A farmer using restricted use pesticides to protect crops and animals from pests on property owned or rented is considered a “private” applicator and must become certified by the DEC and show his/her pesticide license when purchasing these products.  General use pesticides, considered to be safer and in general use, do not require applicator certification for purchase and use.

To be eligible for certification: must have one season’s experience working with the crops, livestock or stored products on which you will use pesticides and be at least 17 years of age.

To become certified:  must take an exam based on information in the Pesticide Training Manual (Core Manual).  Additionally there are questions pertaining to the situation in which you use pesticides (category manual). You can obtain manuals through county Cooperative Extension offices.  Cooperative Extension also offers pesticide applicator training programs or you may study on your own and make an appointment with the DEC to take the exam.

For information on manuals and training, contact your county Cooperative Extension office or call 607-255-1866 or email ; web:

For questions about the certification process and exams, call the DEC office in your region.

Upon passing the exam, your certification is valid for 5 years.  There is a fee for the exam and for certification.


During the 5 years that you are certified, you must obtain continuing education credits toward recertification.  Credits can be obtained by attending meetings where pest management topics are discussed and credits offered.  A “Course Calendar” can be found at; search the database of NYSDEC approved courses in your area.

Credits for private recertification: 8 for Agricultural Animal (Livestock & Poultry) and Aquatics, and 10 for Agricultural Plant (Field & Forage, Fruit, Vegetable, Greenhouse & Florist and Nursery & Ornamentals). Credits must be earned in more than one calendar year and consist of at least 25% category-specific training in each category of certification.

You are obligated to keep records of the credits you receive and turn in record sheets to DEC when they notify you that your license is about to expire.  If you do not have the required credits, you will have to take the exam again.

This fact sheet is part of the Guide to Farming in NY by Monika Roth et al, published by the Cornell Small Farms Program and Cornell Cooperative Extension. Fact sheets are updated once annually, so information may have changed since last revision. If you are reading a printed version of a fact sheet, compare revision date with online fact sheet publish dates to make sure you have the latest version.

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